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Science and religion: mapping the landscape

Science and religion: mapping the landscape

Theos is embarking on a three–year project, in partnership with the Faraday Institute for Science and Religion funded by the Templeton Religion Trust, researching the perception and understanding of science and religion in the UK today.

Are ‘science’ and ‘religion’ compatible? Can they ‘coexist’? Are they in competition? Or outright conflict? And if so – over what?

Different people have different opinions on the relationship between science and religion. In the UK, the one survey to ask the question found that the percentage of people who agree/strongly that science and religion are incompatible was 27%, compared to 39% who disagree/strongly. 

That noted, this is around half the percentage that thinks that “many people in this country” think they are incompatible (50%). And the pattern becomes even more complex when people are asked about evolution – of plants, of humans, of morality, of consciousness – which is usually how ‘science and religion’ had been approached in social research, at least in the UK.

The fact of the matter is that we don’t know what the landscape of ‘science and religion’ is in the UK – except that it is a lot more complex than we think.

Conducting new qualitative and quantitative research, and engaging with other similar projects and publications, we will seek to map the science and religion landscape in unprecedented detail, going wider and deeper than before in our attempt to grasp what people are talking about when they talk about ‘science’ and ‘religion’.

The authors

Prof. Keith Fox is Associate Director of The Faraday Institute and Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Southampton where he has previously been Head of the Centre for Biological Sciences. He studied Natural Sciences in Cambridge, specialising in Biochemistry, and completed a PhD in the Department of Pharmacology in 1980. He was a Research Fellow at Emmanuel College, before moving to Southampton as a lecturer in 1987 and became Professor in 2000. He is Senior Executive Editor of Nucleic Acids Research. His research interests concern DNA structure and its recognition and his scientific work has been published in over 200 papers and articles. He is a former chairman and trustee of Christians in Science and is Editor of Science & Christian Belief. He is also a licensed lay minister in the Church of England. 

Nick Spencer is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, most recently The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). Outside of Theos, Nick is Visiting Research Fellow at the Faiths and Civil Society Unit, Goldsmiths, University of London and a Fellow of the International Society for Science and Religion.

Hannah Waite is a researcher at Theos. She has an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Counselling and she is just about to submit her PhD thesis in Practical Theology looking at the Stigma of Bipolar Disorder in Churches across the UK, both from the University of Aberdeen. She is particularly interested in disability theology and was a founding member and community developer of Friendship House Aberdeen, a movement towards creating an inclusive community for adults with and without disability.  

Nick Spencer’s BBC Radio 4 series, ‘The Secret History of Science and Religion’ first hit the airwaves in June 2019. Across 3 episodes, Nick challenges the ‘myth’ of a long–standing warfare between the two. 

Here’s a little teaser of what you can expect:

You can watch the full 3 episodes here or you can watch the ten part clip series here.

Further reading material

You can read further blogs and book reviews on Science and Religion:

The warfare between science and religion: the idea that wouldn’t die.

Religion vs Science.

The Poetry and Music of Science.

Can science tell you what is good? 

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve.

Addiction, will power and what it means to be human.

Disbelieving Darwin: the dangers of evolution opinion polls.

AI and MRS GREN: What does it mean to be human?

Are you smarter than a computer?

Quantum Theology.

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 Image by Peshkova under a Shutterstock licence.

Nick Spencer

Nick Spencer

Nick is Senior Fellow at Theos. He is the author of a number of books and reports, including Magisteria: the entangled histories of science and religion (Oneworld, 2023), The Political Samaritan: how power hijacked a parable (Bloomsbury, 2017), The Evolution of the West (SPCK, 2016) and Atheists: The Origin of the Species (Bloomsbury, 2014). He is host of the podcast Reading Our Times.

Watch, listen to or read more from Nick Spencer

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